Toyota Yaris 1.33 VVT-i TR: Road test
The third generation Yaris is designed to be compact on the outside but big on the inside. However, this time, it's even more spacious, is offered with more technology and has all-new exterior styling.
So. can the new Toyota supermini make its mark against other rivals? I spent a week with the £13,260, 1.33 VVT-i TR to find out.
Previous Yaris generations haven't really cut it with younger buyers, so Toyota is counting on what they describe as the new Yaris's more dynamic, sharper exterior for sales.
I think it looks best from the front and the new Yaris is the first model to debut the new Toyota face. Key features include its double-concave front grille and distinctive horizontal headlights.
The new Yaris could almost be a scaled-down Auris, its bigger but hardly youthful brother, from the side. Highlights include the steeply sloped beltline and larger quarterlights. At the back, the way the tailgate is inset into the rear bumper of the Toyota is neat.
So overall, the new car does have more visual imapct than the old one. The Yaris is also the most slippery in the supermini class with a drag coefficient of 0.287; it's just a shame it looks too similar to other Toyota models.
Our test car was fitted with the most powerful of three engines available for the Yaris, the 98bhp 1.33-litre VVT-i petrol. Green features include a Start & Stop system which means emissions of just 123g/km and 52.3mpg fuel consumption figures, so this Toyota should prove cheap to run.
This is a small car and as thus easy to park, but I found the rear camera that's fitted as part of the Touch system very useful for tight spaces. I do wonder if parking sensors would have done as good a job? The Toyota's light electric power assisted steering is fine in town, but feels vague and doesn't encourage hard driving on the open road.
There's no pleasure to be found in attacking twisty corners in the Yaris either, as there's too much body roll and the 15-inch wheels lack grip. The Fiesta is still the most dynamic supermini to drive.
The ride is refined on motorways, but doesn't work so well on country roads where road scars unsettle it.
Inside, Toyota is making great claims about the Yaris's quality and finish, but the new dash-top material is shiny and has a finish that looks cheap. Thankfully all the switchgear feels sturdy and is logically placed.
Despite the 1.33-litre engine being capable considering its size, it turns thrashy when worked. Motorway driving can prove to be a noisy experience, as too much engine noise makes its way into the cabin. I found myself turning up the stereo to try and hide the din.
The six-speed manual transmission is light enough but feels imprecise. Performance is willing; 60mph comes up in 11.7 seconds and the top speed is 108mph.
The Yaris's doors open wide and the driving position is comfortable but it's a shame the seats aren't more supportive. The car's increase in length means there's enough space for two adult passengers, plus the 286 litre boot is a 25% increase over the old model.
In mid-range TR trim, the Yaris is well-equipped with air-conditioning, the Toyota Touch system, remote central locking, electric front windows and alloy wheels as standard.
Our test car was fitted with the optional Touch & Go touchscreen navigation system (a free uprgrade until the end of 2011, then a £500 option), that includes Bluetooth and USB connectivity for iPods. Sadly, the maps are not very detailed, but I was impressed at how easily I could pair my phone with the Bluetooth system.
So to sum up, the latest Yaris is a big improvement over the outgoing car. If you value reliability, safety (it has a five-star EuroNCAP rating) and a long warranty (five years, 100,000 miles) over driving thrills, then this could be the supermini for you.